Tournament: Round 1
The day started off with some gut-wrenching drama. I arrived at the course at 7am to warm up and found Savaş (the pro for my team) out on the driving range. I was completely on edge and just couldn’t make good contact with the ball. He told me to relax, that everything would be fine, and then gave me a small tip on my swing to focus on. The range loosened me up and I started channeling my nerves into pure excitement to play. I was hitting a few putts around the practice green when suddenly a woman showed up, decked out in a leopard-print golf glove and spotless white shoes. She walked right up to Savaş and told him, “Okay, I’m all checked in and ready to play.” Savaş looked at her, then at me. My heart dropped. Apparently, the people running the tournament had been informed that his team needed a sub so they had provided one as well. When we told the lady that I was prepared to play, too, she looked me up and down and dismissed me, saying, “Well, I’m ready to play. I would be perfectly fine letting you play tomorrow, but I don’t think the rules committee would allow that.”
Savaş gave me a sympathetic look and said that we needed to go talk to the officials about it.
The woman was appalled. “I’m already checked in! They wrote my name in upstairs.”
Savaş insisted, so we all marched up to the offices and talked to several people. Essentially, it was left up to Savaş to decide who would play. My stomach was so twisted up from my desire to play and the realization that I was probably not going to. He looked incredibly uncomfortable. But the truth was, she was a paying guest of the hotel. And I was a brand new employee.
I decided to speak up and be done with it: “Look, I’ll make the decision easy for you. She can play. It’s fine.”
The lady smiled smugly and said, “There. That was easy.”
I walked away quickly before my emotions got the best of me.
My clubs were already on the cart, so I went to take them off. Thomas was nearby and saw my face. I bit my lip and shook my head. As I turned to take my bag off, I noticed Savaş talking to the lady on the steps I had just come down. He gestured in my direction and she gave him a look of utter disbelief. He left her standing on the stairs and walked up to me with a grin.
[On a side note: the lady did end up getting to play with another team that needed a fourth. So all’s well that ends well.]
We started on hole 10 and I met Mustafa and Gurol, the other two Turkish members of our team. Gurol was Turkish-Australian and therefore had an amazingly cool accent. I started off strong, parring the first few holes before fumbling up my game in the bunkers. The tournament format was to count 2 scores per hole (with handicaps figured in; I played off a 10). While my overall score was nothing to speak of, I definitely felt like an asset to the team. My best hole of the day was number eight: par 3, uphill, into really strong wind. I stuck a five iron about 8-inches from the pin.
I was rather frustrated with my game, though, so I spent the entire rest of the day at the range. I beat balls for several hours, then putted for another 2. I had numerous pros giving me tips… one challenged me to a 9-hole competition and I lost rather soundly, but it was great fun!
That night, my teammates invited me to join them at a seafood restaurant on the beach. I ate dinner with them and a few of the other Turkish players. The spread was incredibly good, but I was not a big fan of the octopus and I had no CLUE what to do when the waiter put two fried fish on my plate: heads and all. Savaş showed me how to correctly fillet it, although I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to working so hard for just a few bites of fish!
We went back to the resort afterward (Thomas was there with his family and he was my ride home) and decided to check out the Irish Pub on the grounds. Apparently, no one in Greece has been to Ireland before (the guys were especially upset to find out that they didn’t sell Guinness). But it was a rather fun environment with big booths and a snooker table. I spent most of the time talking and with some of the younger pros who I had met when I was the range shuttle-driver. Such an interesting group of people!
Tournament: Round 2
I had another early tee time off the 10th hole, which was nice since it was still a little bit cool out. I started off playing really solid golf. Par, par, birdie, par… I ended the 9 at -1 par. I definitely felt like a solid contributor to my team. My score had me hyped up at the turn, though, which led to me choking on the next nine. I tripled the first hole, had a couple bogeys and a double. I made a long putt on the 9th (our 18th) to save par and shoot a 79. It was really satisfying to see my hours on the range pay off a bit. Our team finished at -17 and we celebrated our round together at the Clubhouse with gellatos.
That night there was a barbecue at the resort by the poolside. I was invited to join, so I went over with Thomas and we enjoyed the beautiful atmosphere along with the interesting company. I spent most of the evening talking to two pros from the UK, Martin and Robin. They were great fun and gave some hilarious commentaries as the big television screens showed clips from the two days of tournament play.
Tournament: Round 3
I was not sure if I was going to play in the final round of the tournament. The format was switched on Saturday to individual play; the pros all played together and the amateurs had their own tournament. But, when the tee times were printed, there was my name! I was in a group with other 10/11 handicappers, including one woman from the UK. I was impressed with her abilities and she liked how I hit my driver. We had a really enjoyable round together. Our other companions were an Italian (who didn’t speak Greek or English) and a Greek (who swore in about 12 languages). I did not play my absolute best, but I had a decent performance, finishing with an 85.
The final event of the Pro-Am was a big Gala. The seating was outdoors in a beautiful courtyard under a canopy of stars. I wore the nicest dress that I had brought, with a cute pair of heels. At the last minute I tucked a delicious-smelling gardenia behind my ear. My name was on the guest list alongside Thomas, so we sat together with part of the team from Cyprus. It was a wonderful setting, but the food was even more appealing! Every type of meat and fish, vegetables, fruits, breads, dips, salads, cakes… It was unbelievable. At every seat was a gift bag containing a beautiful set of worry beads, which I am now rather fond of. The awards program began after dinner and I cheered loudly as many of the friends I had made this week received their prizes. After dinner, the party moved to one of the lounge/bars on the premises. Everyone settled onto couches and sipped fruity drinks til late into the night.
It was an incredible experience. I already miss the buzz and the excitement. Many of my new friends gave me their cards and told me to come visit them at their respective golf courses in Dubai, Istanbul, Vienna, South Africa… It’s great to realize how much my golf world has expanded this week.
I need to get to work, but here are some much-awaited pictures. I just snapped these right now in PhotoBooth so they’re not great, but they give you a sense of the landscape. I’m currently sitting on my porch, just after sunrise, looking out over the gray-blue ocean. The mountains are behind me, along with the cow who seems to have taken his chill pill.